Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Saturday, 9/22/2012

Table of Contents

  1. Market Wrap
  2. Index Wrap
  3. New Option Plays
  4. In Play Updates and Reviews

Market Wrap

What, No Gain?

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

A week after Bernanke satisfied all the bulls with a major QE announcement the markets lost ground instead of shooting off into the stratosphere.

Market Statistics

The Dow finished negative on a Friday for the first time in several weeks and the S&P closed only fractionally lower by -0.11 despite a quadruple witching and S&P rebalance at the close. European markets were positive as it appears Spain is making progress moving towards asking for a bailout. They want to have all their ducks lined up as far as reforms before asking for help. Once they ask for help the ECB, ESM and EU will look at what reforms they have in place and then decide what further reforms they are going to require.

Friday was another light news day and the indexes tried to rally in the morning but faded in the afternoon. I am not surprised. The Dow has fallen on 14 of the last 15 Mondays. That trend will eventually end but you can't blame traders from paying attention to the trend and moving to the sidelines.

There was no economic news of note so investors were left to focus on a couple of earnings reports for trading ideas. Mass Layoffs for August declined slightly from 1,340 events to 1,267. The number of employees impacted fell from 137,420 to 127,454. The decline in the numbers was insignificant but the trend is important. The decline put the three year trend close to a three year low.

Moody's Mass Layoff Chart

The calendar for next week has a lot of events but none are really earth shaking. We will see four more regional manufacturing surveys plus the Chicago ISM (PMI). None of these are as important as the Philly Fed Survey last Thursday, which remained in contraction territory for the fifth consecutive month.

The next revision of the Q2 GDP is on Thursday and odds are good it will be revised down again.

This week will be a positioning week for quarter end and for the earnings cycle just ahead. Window dressing is going to be in full bloom and prior winners will probably be seeing positive money flows early in the week.

Economic Calendar

One of the earnings surprises moving the market higher at the open was KB Homes (KBH). KB Homes posted earnings of four cents compared to expectations for a loss of 15 cents. KBH benefitted from higher volumes, higher prices as well as tax and insurance gains. The company said the "pace and breadth of the market gained momentum over the summer." Revenue rose +16% to $424.5 million. Home deliveries rose +7% to 1,720. The average selling price rose +8% YoY to $245,000, up +5% from the prior three months. KBH said it was seeing "dramatic improvement" in California. Earnings were helped by a $16.5 million insurance recovery and a benefit of $10.7 million tied to the resolution of a federal income tax audit. Excluding items the company lost -12 cents per share so those that bought the headline number of a profit of 4 cents were uninformed. Shares of KBH spiked +16%.

KB Homes Chart

Darden Restaurants (DRI) reported better than expected earnings and declared a quarterly dividend to push the stock to a new high. Darden earned 85 cents or $110.8 million. Analysts were expecting 83 cents. Revenue rose +5%. Darden had raised prices on some items to cover the higher cost of the food.

Despite the earnings beat the comps were not exciting. Olive Garden same store sales rose only +0.3% due to a failed "Taste of Tuscany" promotion early in the quarter that did not excite diners. Red Lobster saw same store sales decline -2.6%. To counter that decline they are adding more chicken and beef dishes to the menu to raise the non-fish items to 25% of their offerings from the current 8%. In both chains they are increasing the number of lower cost items to reflect the lower spending by consumers. Those buying appetizers as their entre had been rising so they are launching a lot of downsized offerings to cater to smaller or calorie conscious appetites.

Darden Chart

Luxury retailer Michael Kors (KORS) rallied to a new high with a gain of +9% after raising guidance for the second time this quarter. KORS said earnings in Q3 should hit 38-40 cents, up from expectations in August of 33-35 cents. Full year earnings estimates were raised from $1.32-$1.34 to $1.39-$1.41. The Kors CEO said the "updated guidance reflects our confidence in the strong momentum of the Michael Kors brand and the continued execution of our key growth strategies."

Competitor Coach (COH) saw its shares fall -4% after Credit Suisse downgraded the company. Coach warned when it last reported earnings that 2012 would be an "investment year" that may not be great for the bottom line. The idea was that luxury retailers were suffering in the down economy. Credit Suisse believes that may be a company specific problem for Coach given the outperformance of KORS.

KORS Chart

Coach Chart

Apple (AAPL) shares hit a new high in the morning as the first iPhones became available but the morning bounce to $705 did not hold with the close at $700 for a minor gain. The iPhone is getting good reviews except for one area. Apple took the Google Maps application off the phone and replaced it with a maps application by Apple. Unfortunately that application was not ready for prime time. Complaints are flying fast and that took some of the bloom off the bounce. The backlash was so bad that Apple had to issue a formal statement to reassure buyers that Apple maps would get better. Some analysts thought it was arrogant of Apple to arbitrarily remove Google maps and force users into their Apple app before it was ready. Reportedly there are no turn by turn directions and information on public transportation is severely lacking. Selling two million of the phones on the first day at an average price of $650 produced $13.0 billion in revenue for Apple so I am pretty sure they are not panicked by the maps problem.

The picture below is a FedEx package center clogged up with thousands of iPhone 5 boxes.

iPhone 5 Shipping

Meanwhile Google (GOOG) shares continued to rise as the various companies making Android phones are prospering. Apple started the patent war and now it appears everyone has chosen sides and there is safety in numbers. Apple lost a patent case in Germany against Samsung on Friday so just because they won in the U.S. does not mean the rest of the world is just going to give up and concede to Apple.

Apple took a shot at Google by dropping the maps and Google is getting the last laugh. Apple took an application more than 35% of users love and kicked it and them to the curb. For people who love Google maps that is a reason to buy an Android instead of the iPhone.

Which of these charts would you buy? I prefer Google.

Apple Chart

Google Chart

Starbucks (SBUX) said the Verismo single serve coffer maker is now for sale. The Verismo is a high pressure brewer for specialty coffees BUT it can also make regular coffee. It will steal business from Green Mountain regardless of what the CEOs both say.

CEO Howard Schultz continues to claim this is not a competitor to GMCR and they are still partners with GMCR but I think the clock is ticking on that deal. It may never end but I believe Starbucks will continue to bring new things to the single serve coffee market. Starbucks does not need GMCR. Green Mountain needs Starbucks. Unfortunately the patents on the K-cups expired last month and now anybody can make a K-cup and single serve coffee is going to get a lot cheaper.

In an interview Schultz said Europe appears to have bottomed and is starting to recover. He also hinted that sales in North America were also better than last quarter. With earnings four weeks away he has to be careful what he says. However, I think this will be a better quarter for Starbucks considering the last one was terrible thanks to the decline in same store sales in Europe. Add in some Verismo sales and revenue should increase. SBUX shares should move over resistance soon on expectations for Q3 earnings.

Starbucks Chart

Wal-Mart (WMT) followed Target's (TGT) lead and kicked Amazon to the curb. Wal-Mart was selling the Kindle Fire tablets but they announced last week that they were halting sales of the products as soon as inventory was depleted. Personally I completely understand. Selling the Kindle to Wal-Mart shoppers is like giving them a portable cash register connected to Amazon. The book seller is no longer just a book seller. You can literally buy almost anything on Amazon and have it shipped right to your door. The new Kindles come complete with advertising when you turn it on and eventually there will be an ad that catches your interest and you will buy that item on Amazon instead of Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart and Target are trying to slow down the trend towards showrooming. That means shoppers visit a retail store to compare products and then go home and buy it online. Best Buy is a prime example of a store that is hurt by showrooming and that is why we keep seeing the rumor about Amazon as a possible acquirer of Best Buy. That would give Amazon a bricks and mortar footprint where they could deliver thousands of products to consumers without the shipping hassle. Buy it here or buy it online, we don't care. I think it would be a good move for Amazon.

While on the subject of Best Buy I think they have the worst website in the world for a retailer. If you search for a specific product they not only give you the page for that product but they also list ads for that same product from other sites like Sears, Home Depot, etc. In theory that is to show that Best Buy's prices are the cheapest but anyone clicking away may lose focus and buy something on a competitor site.

Wal-Mart shares declined on the news they are halting sales of the Kindle but in reality it is not going to make much difference to the earnings of either company. The Kindle is a low margin, high cost, low turnover product for Wal-Mart so they won't lose. Amazon is selling all the Kindles they can make anyway so they probably won't miss Wal-Mart other than losing all those prospective Amazon shoppers.

I believe Wal-Mart shares are risky at this point. The spike up from May has stalled at $75 for two months now. If there is no breakout soon investors will get tired of waiting and abandon ship.

Wal-Mart Chart

Amazon Chart

Kraft (KFT) left the Dow at the close and was replaced by United Health (UNH). United gained +1.24 on inclusion in the index and Kraft closed fractionally positive after a week of strong gains. Multiple analysts were reiterating buy ratings on Kraft because of the pending split into two companies and the projected increase in value.

Kraft Chart

Bank of America (BAC) said it was going to cut 16,000 jobs by year end. That did not get as much publicity as the news it had considered changing its name to remove the reference to America. I know that is a shock to some but a marketing team canvassed hundreds of bankers to ask if the bank should change its name to get more traction abroad. You know, overseas where 2.5 billion people dislike America. Was a brand with "America" hampering their attempts to establish a big footprint in emerging markets. One banker said in China people thought they were dealing with a government bank because it said Bank of America. That probably comes from their association with the government owned Peoples Bank of China. Eventually BofA decided to stick with the current name, "Bank of America Merrill Lynch."

BofA, JP Morgan and Citi have been under attack by Iranian hackers all year but those attacks increased last week as denial of service attacks. Analysts believe this is in retaliation for complying with sanctions against Iran. The country has beefed up its cyber capabilities since the Stuxnet virus hit its nuclear facilities in 2010. Iran has publicly advertised its intentions to build a cyber army and even encouraged private citizens to hack against Western countries. JPM and BAC websites were down as a result of these attacks for several hours earlier in the week.

Crude oil bounced after Thursday's contract expiration. The bounce was related to the November contract becoming the new front month and it had been trading at a slight premium to the expiring October contract. WTI hit $93.84 at the open before falling back to close at $92.90 for a 54 cent gain. Nothing changed in the outlook for crude prices to fall. It was just a contract change that caused the bounce.

However, Brent crude rose +1.39 on a new wave of weekend violence in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Brent closed at $111.48. The Brent contract expired on the 15th so there were no expiration pressures this week.

WTI Crude Chart

Gold rallied to $1790 intraday and very close to the high of the year at $1792.70. Powering the move was a decline in the dollar and some high profile calls for higher prices in the months ahead. Bank of America analyst, MacNeil Curry, said gold could peak at $5,000. "Ultimately we think gold will trade between $3000 and $5000." He said it "Certainly not within in the next few months but we are on a well defined uptrend, and we have got more to go before it runs its course."

Sabine Schels, senior director and head of fundamental commodity research at BoA, added, "The best long story for commodity markets right now is gold. In the type of aggressive monetary policy easing environment we have right now, you really want to own gold." Schels forecast gold prices will reach $2000 within six months, before rising to $2,400 by the end of 2014.

On Tuesday Deutsche Bank analysts, Daniel Brebner and Xiao Fu, predicted gold would reach $2000 in the first half of 2013.

Famed hedge fund guru Ray Dalio said on CNBC on Friday, "Gold should be a part of everybody's portfolio to some degree, because it provides diversification. It is the alternative money." Also, "We have too much debt. Too much debt leads to printing of money to make it easier to service. All those things mean that some portion of your investment should be in gold."

All of these comments are music to the ears of gold bugs. They really don't need any more conviction since current QE programs by the Fed, ECB, BOA, BOJ, PBOC, etc is flooding the markets with new money and the end result is going to be higher commodity prices.

Gold on the daily chart (not shown) completed a golden cross of the 50-day average crossing over the 200-day to the upside. The last time this happened gold was $950 in Feb 2009. The 50-day move below the 200-day in April with gold at $1650 on its way to $1525. This technical indicator is widely followed.

Gold Chart

Pimco's Bill Gross believes the Fed will continue QE until unemployment falls to 6%. That could be a very long time. Gross said, "I am basically saying they are not going to exit. Bernanke has basically said if QE3 does not work, there is more behind this." He is projecting inflation to tick up to 3.5% in the next few years. I believe it will be higher and faster but he gets the big bucks for his outlook. He said a debt crisis cannot be solved by printing money. "In the process of reflation, the Fed and ECB will probably promote more inflation than real growth. That is what is really going to happen." However, "I don't think a debt crisis can be cured by more debt, but it can inflate an economy and stop deflation."

Minneapolis Fed President, Narayana Kocherlakota, suggested the Fed would keep rates low until the unemployment rate hits 5.5%. He believes that would likely take four years or more of QE and low rates. He said the behavior of inflation over the last 15 years suggested unwanted inflation is unlikely to kick in until unemployment falls near that level. "As long as the FOMC satisfies the price stability mandate, it should keep the fed funds rate extraordinarily low until the unemployment rate has fallen below 5.5%. The FOMC can provide more current stimulus if people believe liftoff will be triggered by a lower unemployment rate." He did not say what that additional stimulus would be. Kocherlakota, was a hawk and six months ago was urging the Fed to back off its low rate pledge. Suddenly he has reversed his position. I wonder what changed his mind. What does the Fed know that we don't know?

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans has urged the Fed to set unemployment at 7% or inflation at 3% as conditions for ending QE3 and otherwise continue it until either of those levels is hit.

Greece watching our elections? An EU-IMF report on Greece and the outlook for future disbursement of funds may now be postponed until after the U.S. elections in November in order to avoid a market shock. The report will show whether Greece can successfully continue with its reforms and continue to receive bailout funds from the EU or be forced to leave the eurozone. The EU denied the rumors the report could be delayed and an official in the Greek finance ministry said he had been assured there would be no slippage. However, a U.S. official said the U.S. had made it clear to European officials that is wanted to avoid any "downside" economic surprises for the next couple months because of the fragile U.S. recovery, but DENIED it had anything to do with the elections.

Several sources in Germany described those conversations with their U.S. counterparts and said the message had been clear that the Americans didn't want any surprises before the election. A Berlin official said it was "likely" the report would be pushed back until after the November 6th elections. It is widely believed that Greece is far from compliance with its promised reforms and the report will be seriously negative. "As far as European leaders are concerned, they don't want Romney, so they're probably willing to do anything to help Obama's chances," said the source, an EU official involved in finding solutions to the debt crisis. That makes me wonder why they want Obama. I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Friday was quadruple witching option expiration and the rebalancing of the S&P-500. This produced almost two billion shares of additional volume over the 6 billion share average for the prior three days. Friday saw volume of 7.865 billion shares. The rebalancing at the close saw 350 stocks that index funds needed to buy and 140 they needed to sell in order to maintain an equal weight with the S&P. Rebalancing is needed because of stock buybacks, secondary offerings, mergers, splits, major increases in market cap, etc. In theory the exercise brings everyone back into parity inside the S&P. Not surprisingly Apple and Google were on the buy list since their market cap had increased dramatically. This was the largest rebalancing since 2005. Trade volumes were expected to reach $33 billion.

The S&P declined into the close but for all the internal factors of witching and rebalancing it was a rather tame day. A close of -0.11 is hardly earth shaking and the decline for the week was only -5 points. On the surface it would appear we are just passing time waiting for the end of quarter window dressing to arrive next week. The only major move of the week came at the open on Thursday when the markets opened sharply down but quickly rebounded. The highest open interest for options on the S&P was 1450 and that is exactly where the drop ended and the rebound began on Thursday.

The S&P really gives us no indications of what to expect next week. It traded in a narrow range and gave back only a small portion of the post QE3 gains. We are consolidating in place, which is better than a 2-3 day drop because it is painless. Boring but painless.

I believe we are waiting for window dressing to begin. We are also waiting for the next headline to knock us out of our rut. That could be a bailout request by Spain or some new outbreak of violence, possibly closer to home. Who knows what it will take to end the monotony.

So far earnings warnings have failed to depress the bulls. Violence overseas has become so routine in just the last two weeks the market is not even phased. For instance YUM Brands announced it was closing more than 60 stores in Pakistan because massive anti-American protests forced them to take precautionary measures. McDonalds said it was closing 25 stores for the same reasons. I would bet the majority of our readers never even heard those headlines.

We are becoming immune to the news. Traders are still high on the QE3 drug even though it has just begun. There has been no post QE3 decline and that is slightly bullish. The S&P is holding just below multiyear highs and but it is not moving higher and that is troubling. How long can this consolidation of gains continue before traders become tired of no movement and move to the sidelines?

I see 1450 as initial support followed by 1435. Initial resistance is 1465. That gives the S&P a 15 point range in which to wander.

S&P Chart - 20 Min

S&P Chart - Daily

Taking a longer term view the weekly chart shows a bullish pattern of higher highs and higher lows. Resistance in the 1400-1425 range was broken and then the index fell back to test that level as support multiple times in August. That built a strong base and makes the 1400 level the likely stopping point on any major sell off. Below 1400 the 1350 level was major resistance in 2011 and is also strong support.

The breakout high after the FOMC decision has been in consolidation mode for more than a week without a major bout of profit taking. The longer term chart suggests we are going higher.

I know the earnings fundamentals are lousy, the economics are weak, the eurozone is likely to have some strong negative headlines in the coming weeks and the fiscal cliff is looming large but the market has priced this in with the dips in July and the last half of August. I know it makes no sense and as one analyst put it "we are whistling past the graveyard."

Ultimately price is the final arbiter of market direction. We have heard repeatedly that this was the most hated bull market in history and retail traders are not participating. We hear reports that fund managers are under invested. Fund flows into bond funds over the last year has set records and flows out of equities have been over $200 billion. Now those groups are faced with massive QE on a global scale never before seen. Cash is trash and bonds are barely yielding enough to keep up with inflation.

While I think all of the fundamentals in the market are negative we can't argue with price. The market can remain irrational far longer than we can remain liquid.

Despite the bull case I just made for the current market there is a good chance we will see some profit taking once the quarter ends. Fund managers will be free to take profits as they head into the normal period of portfolio restructuring ahead of their fiscal year end on Oct 31st.

Fund managers will decide during the October earnings cycle what stocks they want to hold over that 10/31 year end for statement purposes and which they need to liquidate. That includes losers they want to dump and winners they can use to offset the losers. If a stock like Apple has appreciated from $365 last November to $700 today then they have to weigh the potential for Apple to move higher against the losses the fund manager has to cover by selling winners. He can maintain a minor position in Apple to be able to look smart in the year end statements but he can cash out a large portion and that massive profit will cover a lot of losses in other positions.

That makes October a dangerous month since the markets are at their highs. There is a lot of profit at risk and markets RARELY move higher in early October for this reason. They do tend to rebound sharply from the October lows as managers pick up bargains other managers were forced to dump.

Expect window dressing next week but be wary of early October.

S&P Chart - Weekly

The Dow chart is a clone of the S&P although the blue chips have a subtle uptick not present in the S&P. It is extremely subtle and is probably because fund managers are using the blue chips as safe deposit boxes for cash going into quarter end. They know they can bail instantly in October without the same risk as putting money in illiquid small caps.

Resistance is the high at 13,650 and support at 13,500.

Dow Chart - 20 Min

Dow Chart - Daily

The S&P-100 (OEX) only lost half a point for the week. That is the 100 largest companies and this proves my point that blue chips are being used as safe havens for fund cash as we near the end of the quarter.

S&P-100 Chart - Weekly

The Dow Transports are not confirming the current market rally. They lost over -300 points for the week. The transports are suffering from the warnings from FedEx, Norfolk Southern and others about slowing freight and package shipments. NSC warned that commodity shipments were slowing along with intermodal shipments. Intermodal is the semi trailers that are shipped from one part of the country to the other. That represents consumer merchandise, manufacturing parts, etc. FedEx said global shipments were slowing even more than in their prior warning.

The Dow Transports are the canary in the coal mine for the U.S. economy. This is similar to the price of copper as the indicator of global growth and manufacturing. Nearly every electrical product has copper as a component and that includes homes and buildings. Low copper prices mean low economic activity.

The weakness in the transports is troubling and suggests at least a few investors are paying attention to the economic fundamentals.

Dow Transports Chart - Daily

Copper prices spiked two weeks ago when China said it was going to spend $57 billion on infrastructure projects. However, it has stalled and without an improving global economic story it is likely to fail at these levels.

Copper Chart - Daily

The Nasdaq managed to lose only 4 points for the week thanks to Google, Apple and Intuitive Surgical. Tech blue chips where places for fund managers to store cash. The Nasdaq chart is slightly different from the Dow/S&P. The Nasdaq rallied sharply since mid July and is more overextended than the broader market. This is due to the massive gains in Google and Apple powering a major percentage of the index. If those stocks bear the brunt of manager profit taking in October then the ride back down could be equally as violent.

Nasdaq Chart - 20 Min

Nasdaq Chart - Daily

Another factor that will support equities for the rest of the year is the rapid increase in dividends. Dozens of stocks per week are announcing larger dividends payable in Q4 in order to get ahead of the dividend tax hike in 2013. Unless Congress pulls a miracle out of their hat after the election the tax on dividends could rise from the current 15% to as much as 43%. Investors will buy and hold stocks for the next couple months to capture those dividends.

Goldman Sachs released a report on Friday saying they expect a wave of "special dividends" in the next few weeks to reward shareholders and unload some of the cash that has built up on company books. Goldman said nonfinancial companies have seen cash on hand rise +55% since 2007. Goldman said special dividend announcements tend to be concentrated in Q4 with nearly half of all the announcements since 2000 being made in Q4. In 2010 when the tax cuts were originally set to expire the number of one time announcements more than doubled the rate in prior years. Considering the uncertainty about the election and the fiscal cliff Goldman expects Q4 to set a record of special dividend announcements. Some stocks they felt would announce a special dividend included BEN, WYNN, TDG, WNR and GD to name a few.

This dividend cycle may be positive for stocks in general but we still have to live through the fiscal year end cycle for funds in October. If the market is declining those companies may wait for November to make their announcements in order to provide maximum lift for their shares.

To recap, I expect window dressing for the first three days of next week assuming no major negative headlines from overseas. However, fourteen of the last fifteen Mondays have been down on overseas news. I expect a dip in October most likely in the second and third week. The election could impact that depending on who is ahead in the polls at the time and the jobs numbers on Oct 5th. Not that jobs really matter given the Fed's recent move but it will still impact sentiment and the election.

Enter passively, exit aggressively!

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email

"We can't form our children on our own concepts. We must take them and love them as God gives them to us.”
Hermann and Dorthea 1797

Index Wrap

Sideways Again; Consolidation or Minor Top?

by Leigh Stevens

Click here to email Leigh Stevens

Another sideways move that mostly holds gains made on the last upswing raises doubt whether there's much of pullback now, versus after further gains. 700 in the S&P 100 (OEX) and 3000 in the Nasdaq 100 (NDX) remain possible upside objectives before there's much of a significant correction.

The alternative scenario is that prices retrace some but not much of their recent gains; e.g., the S&P 500 pulls back to the 420-415 area only and then rebounds.

I don't often comment on them, but the monthly charts look quite bullish in the S&P and the Dow. The charts of the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) and NDX don't show quite the same upside acceleration but prior monthly highs have been exceeded.

Of course the monthly chart isn't completed until the end of the coming week. Gains for the month can still be pared but this longest-term chart looks quite bullish at this juncture. Such long-term charts aren't usually directly relevant to options traders, but at certain key junctures they should be considered.

One such 'key' juncture is a situation like the current one where the long-term or primary trend is exerting a dominant influence. Since current levels are not all that far from major potential resistances (e.g., 1550 in SPX, 700 in OEX and 3000 in NDX), charts as long-term as monthly ones help bring home the kind of powerful bull move we've been in.

I may not want to continue to hold much in the way of bullish positions due to the risk of a shakeout given high extremes in the overbought/oversold type indicators on the daily charts. However, when I then look at the solid uptrend in the monthly SPX chart it suggests buying minor dips (if anything) rather than get into a significant bearish play. Note: The 9/28 date at top is the END of the (monthly) period being measured with this date being off in the future yet.

SPX is not yet at the kind of 5-month RSI (see above) high extreme that can precede a sizable downside reversal.

Bullish sentiment has fallen from the high (bullish outlook) extremes that often precede downside reversals. This fact suggests the chart interpretation suggesting a high-level consolidation, before yet another rally, can win the day. My CPRATIO indicator is seen with the SPX and COMP charts below.



The SPX chart pattern is again showing a sideways consolidation in the area of the highs hit on the last run up; i.e., in the 1460 area. Based on this pattern, the odds look better than 50/50 for yet another rally. Or rally 'attempt', given the 'overbought' extreme seen with the 13-day Relative Strength Index (RSI). Such (technical) indicator extremes suggest, at a minimum, that SPX is at high-risk for some retracement of the prior run up.

If the Index starts closing much under 1460, this suggests a test of 1440 support; lower technical support implied by the up trendline is in the 1410 area.

Immediate overhead resistance is in the 1466 area, with next resistance suggested in the 1485 area, at the current intersection of the upper trend channel boundary. Next resistance is 1500. Major resistance begins around 1550.

INDICATORS: The 13-day Relative Strength Index (RSI) seen above at 70 is still quite high but this alone isn't definite or necessarily predictive of any significant pullback.

My bullish/bearish sentiment indicator has fallen in the past week, suggesting that my call to put ratio is again reflecting a cautious bullish outlook. Overbought extremes in this indicator tend to precede significant corrective pullbacks, but we're not seeing this situation currently with my CPRATIO indicator.

S&P 100 (OEX) INDEX; DAILY CHART c The OEX chart remains bullish. Although there's been a week that has seen a sideways move only, the consolidation here has been mostly above the price level achieved on the last advance. This is a bullish pattern usually and suggests that after such a consolidating type (sideways) move, another advance will follow.

I was anticipating last week that technical resistance could be found in the 676-680 area. Minor revision is that near-term resistance is at 675, extending to the upper trendline currently intersecting in the 682 area. 700 is what I see as fairly major resistance in OEX.

Near support is in the 670 area. A Close below 670 suggests potential for a pull back to 660; support then extends to around 653 at the current intersection of OEX's up trendline.

OEX is still at the same RSI extreme suggesting an 'overbought' advance. Caution is suggested in terms of taking on any new positions but in the current market such an RSI extreme doesn't mean more than a yellow caution light as long as the chart pattern stays bullish.


The Dow 30 (INDU) remains bullish in its pattern, even though the trend has been sideways in the past week. This just pulls down bullish sentiment to a more 'moderate' level and tends to be part of the dynamic that keeps the rally going.

Near INDU resistance is apparent in the 13658 area. Next resistance looks to come in at the upper trend channel boundary currently intersecting in the 13800 area.

I wrote last week that the "odds of a INDU correction by a sideways to lower move has increased...". Sideways is what we got in a consolidation that helps 'throw off' the near-term overbought situation and the Dow looks capable of another rally. If they can't take em down, they'll try to take them up.

The overbought extreme suggested by the 13-day RSI at 70, is a cautionary concern but the price pattern trumps all and it remains bullish. However, if INDU starts falling below near support suggested at 13530, we could be seeing the start of a 200 point or so correction, such as with a pullback to around 13300. Support implied by the Dow's up trendline comes in at 13200.


The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) chart continues to trace out a bullish pattern. Yes, the recent stall has put many traders on the sidelines and buying fewer calls, but this has also been the pattern that we've seen for weeks now; i.e., there's a strong 1-2 day run up or spike higher, followed by a sideways move, followed by another rally.

It's also true that COMP appears to be hitting resistance at the upper boundary of its uptrend price channel. Note the recent COMP high that stopped at this resistance trendline. Near resistance is apparent at 3200 and extends only a bit higher currently, to around 3216. In terms of MAJOR resistance, I don't see it coming in unless COMP got to the 3400 area.

I wrote last week that "I'm thinking correction ahead if prices stall in the 3200 area...". COMP did reverse slightly lower after getting quite near 3200 (to 3197). 3150 looks like near support, with pivotal support at 3100, extending to 3050.

INDICATORS: The 13-day Relative Strength Index (RSI) is still registering at an overbought extreme, same as last week, so the risk of a correction is considered above-average. Still, this market doesn't show any signs of a price reversal and the chart pattern trumps any indicator.

My bullish/bearish sentiment indicator has moderated, which bodes well for some further gains.


The Nasdaq 100 (NDX) Index is bullish in its pattern but like the Composite Index is facing slowing upside momentum at the upper (resistance) end of its broad uptrend channel. Resistance implied by this upper channel line currently intersects around 2887-2890. Next resistance looks like in could come in at 2900-2930. Major resistance as suggested by my work with the weekly NDX chart (not shown) is at 3000.

If NDX starts falling below near support in the 2850 area, next support comes in around 2800; support then extends to 2750.

A key Nasdaq bellwether stock, Apple Computer (AAPL) looks like it could break out above $700 in the coming week; if so, NDX should rally further as well. Where did I find myself at 6 am Friday morning but waiting in line for the iPhone5! A very nice looking phone by the way; lighter, bigger screen and accessing 4G now on the AT&T network.


The Nasdaq 100 tracking stock's (QQQ) chart also remains bullish, but as with my NDX chart commentary, we also see slowing upside momentum now that QQQ is back at the upper end of its broad multimonth uptrend channel. Near resistance is at the line of recent highs in the 70.4 area; resistance implied by the upper trendline forming the channel comes in at 71.0 currently. I didn't highlight it on the chart but assuming an upside chart breakout above 71, further resistance is suggested at 72.

Very near support is at 70 even with next and pivotal, support at 69.0; next lower support comes in around 67.4-66.7.

Daily trading volume picked up on Thursday's rally then fell off significantly on Friday's pullback. Daily trading volume is here 'confirming' price action; unusual, since the Q's volume pattern tends to go up strongly mostly on declines. This pattern is different than company stocks in uptrends that see strong volume on up days/weeks and volume contraction on pullbacks.

Repeating from last week, NDX and QQQ remain vulnerable to a correction ahead, ranging from a sideways move to more of an actual retracement of the last run up.


The Russell 2000 (RUT) is mixed in its pattern. RUT is holding more or less around 860, so hasn't given back much of the ground it realized in its last upswing. Its chart would be less 'mixed' if the Index was consistently holding above 860.

Immediate overhead resistance is at 860, extending to 865-868, with next key resistance at the upper trend channel boundary intersecting currently around 880.

Near support is 840, extending to around 835. Next key support comes in at 820, extending to trendline support at 812.


New Option Plays

Shoes, Nat Gas, and Software

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


DSW Inc. - DSW - close: 66.92 change: +0.99

Stop Loss: 64.45
Target(s): 72.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: exit prior to Oct 16th.
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
DSW is a footwear retailer. After nearly five weeks of consolidating sideways the stock is starting to breakout to new all-time highs. The company is paying a special $2.00 dividend on October 26th to shareholders on record as of October 16th. We suspect that DSW will continue to rally up to this record date.

I am suggesting new bullish positions on Monday morning with a stop loss at $64.40. We will tentatively aim for $72.50 but I suspect the $70.00 level might offer some resistance. More conservative traders may want to exit in the $69.50-70.00 zone. We will plan on closing positions prior to Oct. 16th.

- Suggested Positions -

buy the Oct $70 call (DSW1220j70) current ask $0.55

- or -

buy the 2013 Jan $70 call (DSW1319a70) current ask $2.80

Annotated Chart:

Entry on September xx at $ xx.xx
Average Daily Volume = 353 thousand
Listed on September 22, 2012

EQT Corp. - EQT - close: 58.25 change: +0.99

Stop Loss: 55.95
Target(s): 63.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
EQT is an natural gas and oil company. They also provide natural gas to residential and commercial clients. Shares of EQT broke out to new multi-month highs a couple of weeks ago. Since then the stock has seen a pullback. We want to buy this new bounce.

I am suggesting small bullish positions at the open on Monday with a stop loss at $55.95. We will aim for $63.50.

- Suggested Positions -

buy the Oct $60 call (EQT1220j60) current ask $0.80

Annotated Chart:

Entry on September xx at $ xx.xx
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million
Listed on September 22, 2012

VMware, Inc. - VMW - close: 100.68 change: +0.93

Stop Loss: 97.45
Target(s): 108.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
VMW is part of the cloud computing industry. The stock is breaking through round-number resistance at the $100 level. Traders just bought the dip near its 10-dma and 150-dma. VMW can be a volatile stock so we want to limit our position size to reduce our risk.

I am suggesting small bullish positions at the open on Monday with a stop loss at $97.45, which is under the Thursday low. Our target is $108.50.

- Suggested Positions -

buy the Oct $105 call (VMW1220j105) current ask $2.00

Annotated Chart:

Entry on September xx at $ xx.xx
Average Daily Volume = 1.8 million
Listed on September 22, 2012

In Play Updates and Reviews

Stocks Fade Lower into the Weekend

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:

Quadruple-witching Friday did see a little volatility on Friday morning but stocks produced a slow fade lower into the weekend.

SPW was triggered. RIG was stopped out.

I have removed CERN. We are suggesting an early exit on CNQR and ULTI.

Current Portfolio:

CALL Play Updates

Alexion Pharma. - ALXN - close: 114.21 change: +0.48

Stop Loss: 109.40
Target(s): 118.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: +73.1%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: ALXN continues to show relative strength and set another new high on Friday. Shares are arguably somewhat short-term overbought here. I would not be surprised to see a dip toward $112.00. More conservative traders may want to take profits now with our call up +73%. I am not suggesting new positions at current levels.

Our multi-week target is $118.50. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for ALXN is bullish with a $124 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Oct $115 call (ALXN1220j115) Entry $2.83

09/20/12 new stop loss @ 109.40
09/15/12 new stop loss @ 107.75


Entry on September 10 at $110.72
Average Daily Volume = 905 thousand
Listed on September 08, 2012

Concur Technologies - CNQR - close: 74.43 change: -0.11

Stop Loss: 73.40
Target(s): 74.75 (Sept calls), $77.50 (Nov calls)
Current Option Gain/Loss:(Sep75c: +40.0%) & Nov75c: + 5.5%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: We are choosing an early exit on CNQR. The long-term trend is up but short-term the stock has gone sideways for more than two weeks.

I am suggesting an early exit on Monday morning at the opening bell. We can keep CNQR on our radar screen for a pull back toward support (maybe $70 or maybe the 100-dma) as a potential entry point for a new trade.

Earlier Comments:
Our plan was to exit the September $75 calls when CNQR hits $74.75. That target was hit on Thursday, Sept. 6th.

- Suggested Positions -

(target hit for Sept calls @ 74.75 on CNQR)
Sep $75 call (CNQR1222i75) Entry $1.25 exit $1.75 (+40.0%)

- or -

Long Nov $75 call (CNQR1217j75) Entry $3.60

09/22/12 prepare to exit remaining positions on Monday at the opening bell
09/15/12 new stop loss @ 73.40
09/12/12 new stop loss @ 72.45
09/06/12 target hit for the Sept. calls @ 74.75
09/06/12 new stop loss @ 71.70
09/04/12 adjust exit target for Sept. calls to $74.75
adjust exit target for Nov. calls to $77.50
+ new stop loss @ 71.25
08/21/12 new stop loss @ 69.75
08/16/12 new stop loss @ 68.75
08/15/12 triggered at $70.25


Entry on August 15 at $70.25
Average Daily Volume = 577 thousand
Listed on August 13, 2012

Commvault Sys. - CVLT - close: 57.17 change: +0.70

Stop Loss: 53.90
Target(s): 59.85
Current Option Gain/Loss: + 0.0%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: CVLT soared on Friday morning with a quick rally of more than two dollars. Yet momentum faded before lunchtime and CVLT gave back almost all of its gains. I didn't see any specific news behind the rally. The fade back is certainly disappointing. Shares should still have short-term support near $56 and the 10-dma. More conservative traders may want to raise their stops.

Our exit target is $59.85. More aggressive traders could aim higher.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Oct $60 Call (CVLT1220j60) Entry $1.24


Entry on September 20 at $56.07
Average Daily Volume = 427 thousand
Listed on September 19, 2012

Flowserve Corp. - FLS - close: 132.02 change: -0.51

Stop Loss: 129.75
Target(s): 139.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: -27.9%
Time Frame: 4 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: FLS also spiked higher on Friday morning and then reversed to give back all of its gains and more. I suspect we could see FLS pullback toward what should be support near $130. At this point I would wait for a bounce near $130 before considering new bullish positions.

There is potential resistance in the $135 area but we are aiming for $139.50. The Point & Figure chart for FLS is bullish with a $151 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Oct $135 call (FLS1220j135) Entry $2.15

09/18/12 triggered at $132.25


Entry on September 18 at $132.25
Average Daily Volume = 521 thousand
Listed on September 15, 2012

McDonald's Corp. - MCD - close: 93.71 change: +0.56

Stop Loss: 89.90
Target(s): 98.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: - 0.0%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: MCD continued to post gains on Friday and outperformed much of the market with a +0.6% gain. This was in spite of news that MCD and its rival YUM Brands were temporarily closing stores in Pakistan due to rising anti-American protests and violence.

Shares of MCD have rallied to the next level of resistance near $94.00 and another trend line of lower highs. I would expect a pullback here. We can look for a dip (maybe near $92.50-92.00) as our next bullish entry point.

This is an aggressive, higher-risk trade. There is still additional resistance at the simple 200-dma, the $94.00 level, and another trend line of lower highs. We want to use small positions to limit our risk.

- Suggested (SMALL) Positions -

Long Oct $92.50 call (MCD1220j92.5) entry $2.00

09/22/12 I suspect MCD will see a pullback here.


Entry on September 19 at $93.24
Average Daily Volume = 4.7 million
Listed on September 18, 2012

SPX Corp. - SPW - close: 68.07 change: -0.81

Stop Loss: 66.45
Target(s): 74.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: -38.4%
Time Frame: 4 to 5 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: Our new trade on SPW is open but our entry point did not work out as planned. We listed a trigger to buy calls at $69.25. Yet SPW gapped open higher on Friday morning at $69.52. So our trade opened on the gap higher. Unfortunately the rally in SPW failed at technical resistance at its simple 150-dma, just under the $70.00 level. The spike higher and reversal is short-term bearish. I would look for a new dip toward the $67.00 level. Wait for SPW to bounce before considering new bullish positions. Nimble traders could look for an intraday bounce in the $67.00-66.50 area as an entry point.

Our target is $74.50. The Point & Figure chart for SPW is bullish with an $85 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Oct $70 call (SPW1220j70) Entry $1.95

09/21/12 triggered on gap open higher at $69.52. Trigger was $69.25.


Entry on September 21 at $69.52
Average Daily Volume = 622 thousand
Listed on September 20, 2012

The Ultimate Software Group - ULTI - close: 99.00 change: -1.06

Stop Loss: 97.85
Target(s): 106.00 or 109.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: -59.1%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: The long-term trend for ULTI is bullish but short-term the stock looks vulnerable. Shares have been moving sideways this past week. That's not a surprise given the sideways move in the major indices. However, Friday's performance looks like a bearish reversal.

We are suggesting an early exit on Monday morning.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Oct $105 call (ULTI1220j105) Entry $2.45

09/22/12 prepare to exit on Monday morning
09/19/12 new stop loss @ 97.85


Entry on September 17 at $100.75
Average Daily Volume = 169 thousand
Listed on September 15, 2012

Vertex Pharma. - VRTX - close: 59.04 change: +0.91

Stop Loss: 54.75
Target(s): 59.90
Current Option Gain/Loss: + 7.8%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: So far so good. VRTX continues to rally. Shares hit $59.50 intraday on Friday. Our exit target is $59.90 but more aggressive traders may want to aim higher. I am concerned that the $60.00 level might be resistance.

Earlier Comments:
This is a higher-risk trade. You can see from the chart that VRTX has been very volatile over the last few months. We want to limit our position size to reduce our risk.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Oct $57.50 call (VRTX1220j57.5) Entry $3.80

09/15/12 adjust exit target to $59.90
09/13/12 new stop loss @ 54.75
09/06/12 new stop loss @ 54.25
09/06/12 triggered @ 55.75


Entry on September 06 at $55.75
Average Daily Volume = 1.4 million
Listed on September 05, 2012

Watson Pharmaceuticals - WPI - close: 83.90 change: -0.32

Stop Loss: 82.75
Target(s): 88.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: -22.5%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: Hmm... it seems a gap open higher and then a slow fade lower the rest of the session was a popular pattern on Friday. WPI participated although it was a relatively low-volatility day. The stock could see a bit more volatility on Monday because after the bell on Friday afternoon the company announced a voluntary recall.

WPI said that some of its Hydrocodone Bitartrate and APAP tablets were the wrong color and might have an inaccurate amount of active ingredients. WPI recalled two lots of these pills. Shares did see a spike down toward $83.00 after hours on Friday.

I would not open new positions at this time. We'll see how shares act on Monday and re-evaluate.

FYI: The Point & Figure chart for WPI is bullish with a long-term $105 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Oct $85 call (WPI1220j85) Entry $1.55


Entry on September 20 at $84.25
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million
Listed on September 19, 2012

PUT Play Updates

O'Reilly Automotive - ORLY - close: 83.89 change: -0.19

Stop Loss: 81.55
Target(s): 75.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

09/22/12: Aggressive traders may want to buy puts on ORLY right now. The stock's oversold bounce just failed at resistance near $85.00 on Friday. Aggressive traders could buy puts now with a stop just above Friday's high (which was $85.11).

The newsletter is still waiting for a breakdown under support at $80.00 as our entry point. I am suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $79.75. If triggered our target is $75.10.

Trigger @ 79.75

- Suggested Positions -

buy the Oct $75 PUT (ORLY1220v75)

09/22/12 aggressive traders may want to buy puts now with a stop above Friday's high. We are keeping our trigger at $79.75.


Entry on September xx at $ xx.xx
Average Daily Volume = 1.5 million
Listed on September 17, 2012


Cerner Corp. - CERN - close: 74.46 change: +0.85

Stop Loss: 71.25
Target(s): 65.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

09/22/12: The rebound in CERN continues. Shares are now above technical resistance at their 50-dma. I am removing CERN as a candidate. Our play never opened.

Trigger @ 69.65

Trade did not open.

09/22/12 removed from the newsletter. trade did not open.


Entry on September xx at $ xx.xx
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million
Listed on September 17, 2012

Transocean Ltd. - RIG - close: 48.55 change: +2.17

Stop Loss: 46.80
Target(s): 42.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: -42.8%
Time Frame: 4 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

09/22/12: RIG has blown up on us! We waited patiently for shares to break to a new relative low. Our trade was opened on Sept. 18th at $45.40. Then on Thursday shares saw a big bounce on news of a new contract and news that Petrobras was lending RIG some legal help in the company's fight with Brazilian officials over the country's outright ban on RIG's ability to do business in the country. The short covering continued on Friday. I warned readers that RIG looked poised to hit our stop loss on Thursday. Instead of hitting our stop loss at $46.80 the stock gapped right over it with an open at $47.44 on Friday morning. RIG dipped low enough to fill the gap and then took off again to post a +4.6% gain on the session.

- Suggested Positions -

Nov $45 PUT (RIG1217w45) Entry $2.45 exit $1.40 (-42.8%)

09/21/12 stopped out on gap open higher at $47.44
09/18/12 triggered at $45.40


Entry on September 18 at $45.40
Average Daily Volume = 3.1 million
Listed on September 13, 2012